By Paul Stonehill
Issik Kul is a remote deep-water lake located in the northern Tian Shan Mountains, in the Transiliysk Ala Tau area of Kyrgyzstan (Central Asia). The name means “warm water”; the lake is surrounded by snow-capped peaks but it never freezes.
According to a well-informed Ukrainian writer V. Krapiva, in the late 1930s a Russian researcher of the paranormal, Grabovsky conducted an interview with a reluctant witness. That man and his friends had explored a cave near the Issik Kul Lake, where they discovered three human skeletons, each more than three meters tall. The skeletons were adorned with decorations that looked like bats (flying mammals) made from silver. The men became scared out of their wits and kept silent about their discovery for many long years. They did melt the silver decorations, but a small piece had been saved. Soviet scientists who had studied the piece said they could not determine its age. Interestingly, a Kyrgyz legend does mention a submerged city in the lake. The city’s ruler, King Ossounes, was a creature with “long asinine ears”. The lake itself has been known to experience paranormal phenomena.
The earliest mention of similar gigantic beings dates back to early 1900’s. Several boys in Georgia (at the time, part of the Russian Empire) discovered a cave inside a mountain, full of humanoid skeletons. Each skeleton was about three meters tall. To get to the cave, the boys had to dive into a lake. George Papashvili and his wife recall the incident a book published in New York in 1925, St. Martin’s Press (Anything can happen). In 1953, Jose Ferrer played the Georgian immigrant, George Papashvili whose book is a classic story of an immigrant adjusting to life in the United States.
Many years later a much more sinister incident took place in the Soviet Union. Russian paranormal phenomena magazine Anomaliya (issue #4, 1992) contained an article written by Mark Shteynberg, a Soviet veteran of the Afghan war. He is an author of several books; an expert on Russia’s military, who now resides in the United States. In the summer of 1982, Mark Shteynberg, along with Lt. Colonel Gennady Zverev, actively conducted periodic training of the reconnaissance divers (“frogmen”) of the Turkistan and Central Asian military regions. The training exercises had been taking place at the Issik Kul Lake.
According to media reports, this is where powerful but not too accurate Soviet torpedoes, underwater missiles, were tested during the Soviet times. Today, in Kyrgyzstan, reportedly, there is still a Russian naval long-distance communications center at the Issik-Kul Lake.
But in 1982 (a memorable year in the history of Soviet ufology) Major-General V. Demyanko, commander of the Military Diver Service of the Engineer Forces of the Ministry of Defense, USSR arrived unexpectedly and hastily to inform the local officers of an extraordinary event that had occurred during similar training exercises in the Trans-Baikal and West Siberian military regions. During their military training dives, Soviet frogmen had encountered mysterious underwater “swimmers”, very humanoid beings of enormous size (almost three meters tall). The “swimmers” wore tight-fitting silvery suits, despite the icy-cold water temperatures. At the depth of fifty meters, these “swimmers” had neither scuba diving equipment (“aqualungs”), nor any other equipment; only sphere-like helmets concealing their heads.
Shteynberg stated that the local military commanders in Siberia decided to capture one of the creatures. With that purpose in mind, a special group of seven divers, under the command of an officer, had been dispatched. As the frogmen tried to cover the creature with a net, the entire team was propelled out of the deep waters to the surface by a powerful force. Because autonomous equipment of the frogmen does not allow surfacing from such depths without strict adherence to the process of decompression stops, all of the members of the ill-fated expedition were stricken by aeroembolism, or the Caisson disease. The only remedial treatment available consisted of an immediate confinement under decompression conditions in a pressure chamber. They had several such pressure chambers in the military region, but only one in working condition. It could contain no more than two persons.
Those local commanders had forced four frogmen into the chamber. As a result, three of them (including the CO of the group) perished, and the rest became invalids. The major general was dispatched, and flew to the Issik Kul to warn the local military against similar attempts to capture any “swimmers”. Although the Issik Kul Lake is more shallow that the Baikal Lake, the depth of the former was sufficient to contain similar mysterious creatures. The Soviet high command was aware of “swimmers” lurking in the depths; an order was issued against the capture. Perhaps they knew much more about the Issik Kul underwater inhabitants than the independent researcher Grabovsky.
A short time later, the staff headquarters of the Turkmenistan military region had received an order from the Commander-in-Chief of the Land Forces. The order consisted of a detailed analysis of the Baikal Lake events and ensuing reprimands. It was supplemented by an information bulletin from the headquarters of the Engineer Forces of the Ministry of Defense, USSR. The bulletin listed numerous deep-water lakes where there had been registered sightings of anomalous phenomena: appearances of underwater creatures analogous to the Baikal type, descent and ascent of gigantic discs and spheres, powerful luminescence emanating from the deep…
Mikhail Demidenko, well-known Russian writer, read Shteynberg’s account in 1992, and recalled that while on an assignment from the Union of Writers in 1986 in Irkutsk (Siberia), he spent some time at the Baikal Lake. There he learned from local fishermen that some years before, they observed how Soviet frogmen were propelled out from the lake to ten-fifteen meters up over the water. The locals never found out why the military behaved in that manner.
Demidenko thought it was the same episode, and contacted his sources in the highest echelons of the Russian Army to no avail But finally the writer did speak with a colonel from the Chief Logistics Directorate who tried to help; Demidenko found out from him later that such an order would be kept in special archives that require top clearance. He died in 2003, a true humanitarian who hated totalitarianism of any hue; a tolerant man who survived the Nazi occupation and kept memories of Nazi atrocities against Soviet Jews; as a young man Demidenko (upon graduation frm a military college) became a translator and interpreter of Chinese.
He was dispatched by the General Staff of the Soviet Army to Red China’s Air Force HQ; and also served in North Korea during the war. Later, Demidenko traveled through China to Western Tibet; and when he became a well-known author and scriptwriter, had visited a number of countries in Southeast Asia, and Europe. He collected materials to write fascinating books, including his last: Po sledam SS v Tibet (Following the SS trail into Tibet), 1999.